MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 9 June 2019

Julie Hatcher and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Bright and clear with sunny spells and light northwesterly winds.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 7
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Auk sp. 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 14
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 1
CommonTern Sterna hirundo 12
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 89
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 190
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 11
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 26
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 2

It was a lovely clear morning when we boarded the ferry full of anticipation of the trip ahead. Captain Giles Wade welcomed us to the bridge and we prepared our recording forms and binoculars ready for departure as the sun streamed through the windows.

As we left Poole Harbour the Common and Sandwich Tern were busy searching and diving for fish by the harbour entrance and out into Poole Bay. The crossing was very smooth and the sea calm as we headed towards the Channel Islands and we spotted several Fulmar, Guillemot and a couple of Puffin resting on the water. With Alderney just visible ahead we were surprised when a Grey Seal popped its head up briefly before disappearing again. We recorded a few Gannet as we approached their breeding colony just off the Alderney coast, one individual travelling alongside the bridge window for several minutes before heading off to the colony.  A striking cloud formation was sitting directly above Guernsey in an otherwise clear sky and a loose group of around 100 gulls of various ages were resting on the water just outside the harbour at St Peter Port.

BND Julie Hatcher 01
Bottlenose Dolphins near Jersey (Julie Hatcher)

The voyage between the islands to Jersey was equally smooth as we looked out for Balearic Shearwater that we had heard were in the area. Sure enough we were lucky enough to see a dozen or so of these rare birds as well as a few Manx Shearwater. As we approached St. Helier on Jersey a couple of Bottlenose Dolphin breached clear of the water beside the ship, giving us very clear views. Others were ahead and we counted six in total as they played in the wake of the ship.

Once docked in Jersey we were entertained by a resident Oystercatcher that has the habit of watching its own reflection in the windows of the bridge, pacing alongside and posturing at what it believes is a rival bird.

As we headed away from Jersey for the return journey we kept an eye out for the dolphins and shearwaters we had seen previously but it was very quiet, with only a few gulls and Shag to be seen. Passing Alderney we had close views of the Gannet colony and could see crowds of birds sitting on their nests, with a few actively foraging nearby. The wind had dropped even further and towards mid-Channel the surface of the sea was glassy smooth. Spotting a couple of Storm Petrel was a highlight of the day, along with some more Manx Shearwater and a solitary Puffin on the water. To top the day off, as we approached Old Harry Rocks on the Dorset coast, a single Bottlenose Dolphin surfaced a couple of times just ahead of the bow before disappearing again.

Gannet Julie Hatcher 02
Gannet (Julie Hatcher)

As an added bit of excitement we were able to watch the pilot from Poole Harbour transferring between boats as he boarded the ship to guide it into port. This was a very enjoyable survey with calm, clear conditions and some interesting sightings. Thanks to Captain Giles Wade and his crew for their hospitality.